Part 1, Chapters 12-21 Summary and Analysis
Last Updated on May 16, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 649
The author discusses how much telling his story upsets Pi and how spicy the food is that Pi serves.
These unrelated details go together thematically; Pi has not “digested” the “spicy” story he lived through in the past, just as the author cannot in the present.
These two brief chapters both discuss pack relations. Chapter 13 notes that an animal will attack primarily to protect its territory and that a trainer must gain a psychological edge over an animal by establishing territorial ownership before the animal does. Chapter 14 follows this by observing that pack hierarchy will aid this; a trainer can train the “socially inferior” animal more easily because a close relationship with the trainer means protection from the other animals.
While again seeming to be simply interesting information Pi would have learned from his family, these chapters foreshadow the precise knowledge and techniques he will have to use with Richard Parker, with one exception: he will be in that cage/territory himself, with no escape.
The author describes the many religious icons that fill Pi’s home.
This chapter shows not only how intensely Pi worships but also how broadly: he is not limited by specific traditions. The breadth of faith refers to his childhood; the intensity, his ordeal.
His house is a temple.
The author makes this flat observation about Pi’s home when he sees it, noting the many icons and representations of different religions filling it. At the time, the very multitude of these symbols is a mystery: how can one man worship these different religions? Later, it becomes a larger mystery: how can a man who has been through such an ordeal still believe?
These chapters discuss the origins of two of Pi’s religious faiths, Hinduism and Christianity. He suggests that we are all “born like Catholics,” in that we are born in limbo, but our context provides a religion. Pi grew up a Hindu and describes the details that shaped him as one. Pi then tells of his first encounter with Christianity at age fourteen.
Pi’s description of Hinduism is so detailed and so loving that it clearly shapes him, and the fact that it is his primary worldview is demonstrated in Pi’s first reaction to Christianity. However, Pi’s suffering in the lifeboat is much closer to the agonies of Christ on the cross (down to the shared thirst) than to Hindu stories.
These three chapters review Pi’s first encounter with Islam, which happened when he was fifteen. Pi meets another Satish Kumar, this one a Sufi mystic, who impresses him with the love and clarity of his faith. The end of chapter 20 describes the two direct experiences of God that Pi had.
Pi’s accidental encounter with this Mr. Kumar parallels his two experiences of direct communion with God: both come unlooked for and move him beyond words.
His name was Satish Kumar. These are common names in Tamil Nadu, so the coincidence is not so remarkable. Still, it pleased me that this pious baker, as plain as a shadow and of solid health, and the Communist biology teacher and science devotee, the walking mountain on stilts, sadly afflicted with polio in his childhood, carried the same name. (Chapter 20)
While this may be simple coincidence, as Pi himself suggests, it is also symbolic: though they look different, both the mystic and the rationalist are essentially the same, and both guide Pi.
In this chapter the author reflects on the stories Pi has told him. He is clearly moved, even troubled, by what Pi has said.
The author’s reaction sums up the effect a good story can have on us: they make us discontent with our lives and leave us wishing for more, even as they satisfy us.